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Awards

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • A true to its source adaptation of a cosmic horror classic
  • Generating real paranoia and distrust among your friends resulting in plenty of table talk
  • Being able to keep your role a secret while you blend in with others

Might Not Like

  • At times can be a little repetitive, especially in the early game stages
  • The game can be hard to teach as players who need to keep information secret can’t ask for help due to risk of them being exposed
  • Gameplay can become a little swingy if aliens are exposed to soon or humans find a powerful weapon early on
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The Thing: The Boardgame Review

the thing

Based on the iconic 1980s horror movie by John Carpenter, The Thing: The Boardgame is a semi co-operative hidden role game for up to 8 players.

This is a game of deceit and deception that has players struggling to survive and escape a shape shifting alien entity that can pick them off one by one.

As a fan of the original movie I can say that this is a superb hidden role game and one of the most thematic and immersive experiences I have ever played.

Playing Your Roles In The Thing

The Thing is a semi co-operative game and this means that despite working together, some of you may have alternate agendas.

After setting up the map, filling its slots for the fuel, food and repair tokens, players will then pick their character.

Although the crew in the film consisted of 12, we only have 8 in the core game. The majority of the iconic ones are here but I can’t figure out why they left out Childs, one of the only survivors at the movies’ climax.

What I love here though is that each character has an ability balanced enough and thematic to their character. Clark is the dog handler so he can ignore the dogs ability to infect him. Nauls is the cook and can use fewer food tokens when managing the kitchen area. Having these abilities gave the game a lot more replay value for me and allowed for some fun combinations of characters.

Each player is dealt a role card, all but one of you will be human and its your greatest strength to remain hidden. Each player draws from a deck of cards, takes their contagion tokens and is ready to begin.

Navigating The Outpost

The Thing is played over a series of rounds each consisting of 8 phases. The game can end in a number of ways. The humans can win if they manage to identify all alien threats and escape the outpost.

The alien can win by either infecting everyone, or boarding the chosen escape method, they’ve managed to get out into the world and spread!

Most of the phases of The Thing are quick and easy to understand, the rulebook is well written, with plenty of diagrams and examples to help you.

First of all we roll the blue weather dice and consult our chart to see the effects. Clearer skies mean the base uses less fuel and the rescue helicopter will move faster to the base. Bad weather means more fuel is consumed and the boiler room can break, meaning the humans can freeze to death. This can also cause the generator to break resulting in the base being plunged into darkness.

I found that getting bad luck on the weather dice in the early game can make the game harsh especially for newer playes. Despite the power rooms breaking I only needed to concern myself with the boiler room. Darkness wasn’t much of a hinderance even when I didn’t have the required flashlight.

Next is the alien phase where any alien players act out their turn using the grotesque standees. They can move, attack and sabotage the humans but this phase only plays out if the alien has been exposed. An issue I found is that if by a small chance the alien player was discovered in the first few rounds, they could struggle to get their strength up to really effect the human players.

Next up is the action phase where the bulk of the gameplay happens. Players move their character to a room on the board and then play one of their action cards facedown. Note that players need to work together and discuss strategies to survive and win. For instance you might be low on food supplies, someone can tend the kitchen. The generator is nearly down so lets send someone, or two people there to repair it. Maybe a character could use a weapon or specific item so they need to go to the armoury or warehouse.

I love how this encourages co-operative gameplay and brings out table talk. You will be debating and at times, arguing over what to do as the situation grows more intense and the pressure rises.

A selected leader will then shuffle and one at a time reveal the action cards, then decide where to apply these at the locations. The cards consist of use, repair or sabotage. Use lets you perform area actions like supply a room or draw an item card. Repair allows you to fix broken areas of the base. Sabotage will damages areas, resulting in escape methods becoming inaccessible.

This a wonderful system and such a simple way to allow non human players to wreak havoc across the base without anyone ever knowing what role card they have. When I mentioned table talk earlier bringing out some serious debates, it doesn’t getting scarier and funnier than seeing a couple of sabotage cards enter the pile, prompting the leader to question everyone’s loyalty and true intentions.

The next phase is the leisure phase where everyone regroups and accusations can occur. Anyone who picked up a blood test kit can check to see if someone is an alien, what’s great here though is you can only test someone who has the highest suspicion marker, meaning that an alien player who can can blend in more has a higher chance of success.

Then we move onto food consumption which depletes quicker if no one tended the kitchen. Much like the generator room being damaged I didn’t feel that the consequences here were great enough for me. A reduced hand size, while annoying, didn’t feel to me as deadly as a lack of food should be.

Finally we have the dog movement phase where the adorable husky miniatures move around the board based on location cards. These pesky canines can be a problem for two reasons. If a character is alone with a dog in a room they draw from an infected bag and have a small chance of being secretly infected. The other reason is that if a revealed alien finds itself in a room with a husky, it will consume it and grow in strength!

The Thing: Someone Isn't Who They Claim To Be

As I mentioned at the start of my review this is one of best thematic horror game experiences and a well crafted emulation of the themes of the movie.

The biggest factor that contributes to this is that this game generates a real sense of paranoia and distrust with everyone around you. You begin the game with the knowledge that someone is infected and its hard to figure out a specific players true purpose.

I have had countless games where seemingly innocent actions by players can raise eyebrows and motivations were often questioned.

The idea of drawing tokens from a bag to see if a dog infected you is scary but exciting as your role can suddenly switch. Downplaying the result and keeping your head down while you secretly changes roles feels like your acting out a role in front of your friends.

The tension as you all decide who to perform a blood test on and then waiting for them to reveal their role card is unmatched in any game I have played.

I love how players can be elected to be the leader of the group. It can give you a great sense of duty and control over the game,. Deciding how to distribute the action cards to various locations while keeping an eye on where players are moving to. It’s even more fun if you are secretly an alien player. Watching everyone squabble and argue over why that player moved to a location or why they did something the last turn.

Keeping the base operational feels true to the progression of the film. Working together to keep the heat and the lights on, while trying to figure out the motivations of any suspicious characters is one of the highlights of this game.

It really does bring out, in a natural way, true co-operative gameplay and communication between players. With base maintenance being easy to keep track of and escape being a simple concept to grasp, everyone can easily get involved and contribute their ideas and strategies.

“Nobody Trust Anyone Now…And We're All Very Tired”

The artwork in The Thing is reminiscent of a cartoon with caricature drawings of the characters from the film rather than real images. While I found this style acceptable some may feel a slight disconnection with the almost family friendly style characters and objects when trying to picture themselves playing through the movie.

I found the game had a few issues regarding the alien player. While its great to become the alien and surprise everyone, players who join forces with them at a later time don’t really have much to do other than help decide where the aliens strength tokens will be placed.

Some items felt a little underpowered too. Weapons like knives and guns don’t really do much other than prevent encounters with players. I only really found the flamethrower and dynamite to be effective at repelling the thing itself.

Some parts of the game may feel a little tedious if players are repeating actions. Gameplay does ramp up once the suspicions rise but I get the impression some may find this build up and slow tension not to their liking.

For example the contagion checks, while being a well designed way of players secretly sharing information on who is who, can become tiresome especially if both players are fully human.

Final Thoughts

Despite a few minor issues The Thing: The Board Game is an outstanding hidden role game. Totally immersive and thematic and one of the best interpretations of a movie into a board game I have ever played.

A tension soaked semi co-operative horror experience that takes the hidden role genre to new levels.

Zatu Score

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • A true to its source adaptation of a cosmic horror classic
  • Generating real paranoia and distrust among your friends resulting in plenty of table talk
  • Being able to keep your role a secret while you blend in with others

Might not like

  • At times can be a little repetitive, especially in the early game stages
  • The game can be hard to teach as players who need to keep information secret cant ask for help due to risk of them being exposed
  • Gameplay can become a little swingy if aliens are exposed to soon or humans find a powerful weapon early on

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